A Hundred Jobs in a Time of Need

By Beacon Staff

Jim Sevaly realizes graphic design has little to do with operating heavy machinery or providing customer service for a financial institution. But in the past several months, those three disparate activities have shared a common bond in Sevaly’s life: potential jobs.

For nine years, Sevaly was a graphic designer for Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books. Then the company cut his division and he was sent job searching.

Not much in the way of graphic design or publishing was readily available, so Sevaly began using his imagination, exploring jobs he would have never previously pondered. Among them was heavy equipment operation for the city of Kalispell, an occupation that would have included de-icing.

Another one was a customer service representative position at TeleTech. On Dec. 1, Sevaly spent the better part of his day applying, interviewing and hoping for a job at TeleTech. The company plans to add roughly 100 employees by next March to its Kalispell center.

If he doesn’t get a job soon, Sevaly will have to get an extension on his unemployment benefits.

“It’s come down to applying for everything I can,” Sevaly said.

With Flathead County’s unemployment rate hovering just below double digits and the region’s base industries flailing, many in Northwest Montana are jumping at any job opportunities they can find. At TeleTech’s job fair on Dec. 1-2, steady streams of people showed up to apply, test and interview for the 100 new positions.

TeleTech is a business process outsourcing company with 45,500 employees worldwide at 71 locations in 17 countries. Its headquarters are in Englewood, Colo. More than 500 employees work at the Kalispell branch, which celebrated its five-year anniversary in November, said site director Tory Graham. Graham, a Kalispell native, said the center started with about 200 employees. She is one of 28 who have been there since the beginning.

The TeleTech Kalispell center is located within the Gateway West Mall, which is largely abandoned save for a scattering of small businesses and nonprofits. TeleTech is by far the largest presence. And during the job fair, with hundreds of people applying for jobs, the rumblings of a significantly larger presence were felt.

Graham said the company had to bring in more testing computers because so many people came to the fair. Some people, she said, walked out that day with a job.

“It’s been non-stop all day,” Graham said on Dec. 1. “It’s a positive thing for this community.”

The advertised jobs – customer service representatives – at TeleTech pay $9.75 with medical, dental and vision benefits, Graham said. The Kalispell center’s representatives only take inbound calls, she said, meaning they don’t call people’s homes or businesses.

Under contract with a large unnamed financial institution, the reps field calls through a 1-800 customer service number. The job requires a degree of computer knowledge and people skills, attributes that the job fair testing was designed to gauge.

Chris Yevich, who was waiting next to Sevaly for his interview at the fair, said he was laid off from his sheet metal job in Tacoma in June. His wife was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, creating an amplified urgency in his job search. After sticking around in Washington for a few months to let their health insurance run its course there, the Yeviches moved to Kalispell in November to be with family.

Two weeks later, Yevich was still scrambling for work, with the clock on his unemployment benefits ticking down while his wife continued her battle with cancer.

“I’m ready to head to McDonald’s,” Yevich said.

Like Sevaly, Yevich has no experience in the customer service field but is willing to try any line of work as long as it pays the bills. Judging by the throngs of people filing into TeleTech’s job fair, Yevich and Sevaly clearly aren’t alone. Graham said her company’s openings offer a well-timed respite.

“It’s a great pre-Christmas present,” she said.

Job seekers can apply online at www.hirepoint.com, call (406) 751-3100 or visit TeleTech’s location in Gateway West Mall at 1203 U.S. Highway 2 West in Kalispell.

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